ATC121123: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an Oversight Visit to Kuruman, Northern Cape, dated 20 November 2012

Basic Education

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an Oversight Visit to Kuruman, Northern Cape, dated 20 November 2012

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an Oversight Visit to Kuruman , Northern Cape , dated 20 November 2012

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having undertaken an oversight visit to Kuruman , Northern Cape from 3 – 5 October 2012, reports as follows:

1. Introduction

As an ongoing theme within the Portfolio Committee, the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education undertook to visit Provinces and Districts throughout the year, to continually monitor and oversee the work of Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) in respect of schools in their Districts.

There have been numerous reports on the issue surrounding the closure of several schools in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, in Kuruman, in the Northern Cape Province . Students had experienced intimidation and disruptions at affected schools which prompted the Provincial Department to set up study camps for the Grade 12 learners in preparation for the National Senior Certificate Examinations.

A delegation of the Portfolio Committee visited the area to gain first hand knowledge of the issues as well as to meet all relevant stakeholders and role-players. This included in-loco site visits to the study camps for all learners as well as study camps specifically for Grade 12 learners affected by the disruptions. Meetings involved the National Department of Basic Education, the Northern Cape Provincial Education Department, District officials, organised labour and the South African Principals Association.

In the spirit of cooperative governance the delegation had scheduled a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Education in the Northern Cape Legislature, but due to the legislature being in recess and tasked with road-shows on legislation, this meeting could not materialise. The Committee also received an apology from the Office of the MEC due to her ill health.

The main objective of the visit was to assess the gravity of challenges faced in the affected areas, to gain first-hand experience and information from those affected and to give the necessary support and advice in dealing with the challenges. The delegation needed to ascertain whether the situation had stabilised in the district and investigate if there would be an opportunity for catch-up or support programmes for learners to make up for the lost time when schooling resumed. The delegation further needed to establish if there were mechanisms in place to ensure that all affected learners benefited from the catch-up programmes. The Committee also wanted to be appraised of the intergovernmental relations amongst the affected departments e.g. Basic Education; Police; and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

2. Background

In the 2011 National Senior Certificate examination the Northern Cape Province recorded a 68.8 percent pass which was a decline from a 72.3 percent pass in 2010. Though the Province performed better than the Eastern Cape , Limpopo , Mpumalanga , and KwaZulu- Natal, all the districts recorded a decline in the 2011 NSC examination. The lowest performing district was John Taolo Gaetsewe at 51.1 percent while Namaqua was the highest performing at 88.6 percent. The John Taolo Gaetsewe district was amongst the districts that performed below the 59 percent norm required by the Department of Basic Education. However, the Province, in 2009 and 2010 produced the second highest percentage pass of schools nationally with a 100 percent pass at 15.7 percent and 20.1 per cent respectively.

The John Taolo Gaetsewe District had 64 631 learners taught by 2 116 educators in 206 schools in 2010. The district had the highest number of schools in the Province. Disruptions in the form of service delivery protests started in May 2012 in the District. The most affected in the district was Kuruman, which was the seat of authority of the district and Olifantshoek. While demanding that the 100km road linking their villages to the N14 highway be tarred, and that the mayor of Gamagara local municipality resign; the protesters kept learners away from school to intensify their cause. In the process the following unfolded:

· Residents turned violent;

· A community library and a school were burnt down;

· 16 000 pupils and 400 educators were forced out of school in approximately 60 schools around Kuruman;

· Being the worst performing district in the province, the 2013 Grade 12 learners would not have been well prepared for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examinations and may perform poorly;

· Two primary and one high school in Olifantshoek, with a total number of 2 583 learners did not write the June examinations;

· Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners could not write the Annual National Assessments (ANA);

· The Department had set up study camps for Grade 12 learners although some learners did not attend the camp for fear of reprisals on their homes and families; and

· Several attempts to restore stability in the area were met with resistance from the residents.

The above situation had the potential of raising further consequences in the future where:

· There could be overcrowding in classes such as Grade R where the intake of new entrants would find a large number of retained learners;

· The 2013 Grade 12 class may have no learners who progressed from Grade 11, or may have fewer learners or may experience high failure rate due to the potential ill-preparedness of the current Grade 11 class;

3. Composition of the delegation

3.1 The Parliamentary Delegation

The delegation from the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education comprised of Hon H H Malgas MP (Chairperson) (ANC), Hon N Gina MP (ANC), Hon C Moni MP (ANC), Hon A Lovemore MP (DA), Hon N M Kganyago MP (UDM), Mr D Bandi (Content Advisor), Mr L Mahada (Parliamentary Researcher), Ms S Ntabeni (Committee Assistant) and Mr L Brown (Committee Secretary).

3.2 Stakeholders

3.2.1 Department of Basic Education (DBE) – Mr H M Mweli, Ms J Kinnear and Ms K Sechoaro.

3.2.2 Northern Cape Education Department – Mr T Pharasi, Mr M Ismail, Ms P Phuzi, Mr H Esau, Mr B Mathane, Mr H J Pekeur, Ms M P Tshite, Ms J Grey, Mr L Monyera, K J Sesenyamotse and Mr V J Teisete.

3.2.3 South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) – Ms B C Molebalwa, Mr A E Sebolai, Ms R Oliphant, Mr W Plaaitjie, Ms D Leutlwetse, Mr M Tikane, Mr R Monaheng, Mr Z Pholo, Ms G Mahymapelo, Mr N G Masegela, Mr M Gaborokwe, and Mr M Ronald.

3.2.4 Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysunie (SAOU) – Mr A J Jonker.

3.2.5 National Professional Teacher Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) – Mr A Taunyane, Mr A Digobo and Mr L Strydom.

3.2.6 South African Principals Association (SAPA) – Ms M Mathe, Mr K M Moremi and Mr D W C Beukes.

4. Engagements with the National Department of Basic Education, the Northern Cape Provincial Education Department and District Officials

The Head of Department, Mr Pharasi indicated that never in the history of the country was there a situation where parents sacrificed the education of their children for their own selfish gain. The main issue at hand was that children had a constitutional right to basic education which is also the responsibility of their parents to protect. Mr Pharasi tabled the John Taolo Gaetsewe (JTG) Recovery Plan 2012 as well as a Report on the JTG Service Delivery Protest, Affected Schools , Northern Cape Department of Education Interventions to Date and Action Plan for the Remainder of the Year and 2013.

4.1 Overview of the John Taolo Gaetsewe (JTG) Service Delivery Protest

Unrest in Olifantshoek started on 29 May 2012. The reason for the unrest was the demand for the resignation of the Mayor of the Gamagara Municipality . In this instance, two primary schools and one high school, with a total learner population of 2 583, were severely affected. Protest actions later spread to other areas in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. Schools around Cassel , Bothithong, Loopeng, Tsineng and Laxey were also disrupted, albeit varying from school to school and from village to village. Since 6 June 2012, 59 schools in these areas were affected by service delivery protests, the main reason being demands for access roads. High levels of intimidation made it difficult for the Department to intervene successfully in some of these areas.

All three schools in Olifantshoek did not write the June 2012 exams (i.e. Northern Cape Primary School , Maikaelelo Primary School and Langberg High School ). In the Joe Morolong Municipal area, schools were affected differently. Some of the schools wrote some of the papers and some wrote back-up papers.

4.2 Interventions

4.2.1 Grade 12

During the June 2012 exams, schools were monitored and daily reports were compiled and forwarded to the provincial office. The Examination Directorate set and printed back-up papers for all affected schools, should the situation normalise. After the re-opening of schools on 16 July 2012, normal schooling resumed until disruptions started again on 23 July 2012. During this period the department started to roll out intervention plans which include catch-up plans and the writing of back-up papers.

Various meetings were held with stakeholders who included Principals, Educators, SGBs and Teacher Unions. Key to these plans was the removal of all the Grade 12’s to set up camps to prepare them for the September Preliminary Examinations and the National Senior Certificate starting in October 2012.

The following centres were initially set up to accommodate learners from different schools:



Deben Hostel

Dibotswa High School

Blinkklip Hostel

Segopotso and Moshaweng

Moffat Mission

Kegomoditswe and Ba-ga Phadima

Seodin P/S Hostel

Nametsegang and Itlotleng

Learamele Hostel

Baitiredi (attending classes at Ikakanyeng)

Learamele Hostel

Bothithong (attending classes at Batlharo Tlhaping)

There was initially a plan to take Langeberg High School learners in Olifantshoek to Blinkklip High School in Postmansburg. This initiative did not materialise due to intimidation of learners and parents by the protestors.

The Department reported on the following successful interventions;

· The Grade 12 learners from Bothithong and Ikakanyeng High Schools attended classes without interruptions as indicated above, until they joined the Deo Gloria Camp.

· Six schools in the JTG District attended the Winter Classes from 9 - 13 July 2012 (average of 80 percent attendance).

· To negate the curriculum coverage backlog, successful Saturday and afternoon classes were conducted until intimidation and threats increased.

Deo Gloria Camp

· The first group of learners arrived at Deo Gloria on Sunday, 12 August 2012. The objective of the camp was to intensify teaching and prepare learners for the preliminary exams in September 2012.

· Learner attendance at the Deo Gloria camp stood at 93 percent.

· These learners were also moved to the Tigerkloof Camp during the September holiday for a special Spring School Camp.

The number of schools and learners at the Deo Gloria Camp were as follows:



















Ba-Ga Phadima












Keimoes Camp

The Keimoes Camp accommodated the Langberg High School , which was the worst affected by the protest action. The first group of learners arrived at Keimoes High School on Sunday, 9 September 2012 and more learners joined the following day. Some learners were withdrawn by their parents after one parent’s house was gutted, but more learners joined later in the week out of their own accord. The number of learners at the Keimoes Camp stood at 31, with 20 learners not accounted for. All these learners had not written the September examinations and were far behind with work schedule completion. Tutoring was targeted at completing the curriculum and to prepare the learners for the final NSC examination. District Subject Advisors and Lead Teachers would be responsible for teaching.

The school and number of learners at the Keimoes Camp were as follows:




Langberg High School






The Department also gave a breakdown of the number of learners registered for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examinations in the JTG District as follows:

· The total learner numbers registered = 1 860

· The total number of learners not affected = 1 431 (representing 19 schools)

· The total number of learners at Deo Gloria = 357 (representing 8 schools)

· The total number of learners at Keimoes = 31 (representing 1 school)

· Outstanding Grade 12 learners not accounted for were 26 (representing 1,39 percent)

A summary of the Grade 12 situation stood as follows:







Baitiredi; Galeletsang; Wrenchville; Kathu H/S; Kalahari H/S; Gamagara; Rekgaratlhile; Lesedi; KP Toto; KS Shuping; Olebogeng; Pitso Jantje; Phakane; Itlotleng; Bagalotlhare; Hotazel C/S; Bankara Bodulong; Batlharo Tlhaping; Remmogo (19)






Ba-Ga Phadima;



Langberg (9)






Ba-Ga Phadima;


Bothithong (8)

Langberg (1)

Almost all the affected Grade 12 learners were accommodated in the following Spring Camps:

· Learamele Centre (79, 5 percent attendance);

· Deben Centre (86, 1 percent attendance);

· Baitiredi Centre (52, 3 percent attendance);

· Keimoes Centre (52, 9 percent attendance) (Langberg H/S);

· Tigerkloof Centre (95, 4 percent).

4.2.2 Grade R – 11

In respect of Grades R – 11, the Department reported that interventions and efforts to restore normality continued in both the Joe Morolong Municipal area and Olifantshoek in the Gamagara Municipal area. District Management, Head Office Management, and political principals engaged with stakeholders, the Minister of Police engaged with community stakeholders and the Minister of Basic Education engaged with stakeholders.

Pockets of positive off-spins that were reported as follows:

· The District Management Team managed to negotiate the reopening of Ba-Ga-Lotlhare High School , Pert, Kome, Shalaneng and Makhubung

· Maduo Primary School in Ganap. Bojelakgomo Primary School and Segopotso High School had also resumed classes.

· The District Management was constantly engaging with different stakeholders and community members in an attempt to have all schools reopened.

· Other schools that had since reopened included the following:



Marumo Middle School


Moshaweng High


Sesheng Primary


Mampestad Primary


Bosheng Middle


Perth Primary


Gata-Lwa-Tlou Middle


Bareki Primary


Makhubung Primary


Shalana Primary


Ba Ga Lotlhare High


Tsoe Primary


Oreeditse Primary


· A breakthrough was reached in the Joe Morolong Municipal area after the Public Protector’s engagement with the protestors and different stakeholders.

· An amicable agreement was reached and all learners in all 64 affected schools returned to school on 25th September 2012.

· School, circuit and district intervention programmes were rolled out, with a request to all 64 schools to start interventions from 25th September 2012 and through the September holidays (1-6 October 2012). Unfortunately only 29 (45, 3 percent) of the affected schools heeded the call to stay open and recover during this period.

· Intervention Plans and Action Plans for the remainder of the time left were developed for each of the affected schools and subject, circuit and district monitoring plans were already in place.

· Adapted work schedules were provided for each affected school and subject after an assessment of the time lost and work still to be covered.

· An advocacy programme was also in the process of being developed to intensify the learning effort in all communities.

In concluding, the Department reiterated that engagements and interaction were continuing between the Department of Education, protesters and different stakeholders. Some engagements yielded successes while others did not. In addition to the concerted effort to restore normality in the district, the Department was also continuously revising the intervention plan to be implemented soon after normality had been realised.

5. Engagements with Organised Labour

The Portfolio Committee also held a special meeting with the following Unions:

· The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)

· Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysunie (SAOU)

· The National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)

5.1 South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)

The union was at pains in comprehending the decision by the communities of Olifantshoek and Joe Morolong areas to close schools. In trying to address the challenges, the union reported that it engaged with the Provincial Education Department at both provincial and local levels since the start of the protest action in May 2012. One could argue the merits of protesting for the tarred road, but not at the expense of learner’s education. The engagements were to address the challenges of Grade 12 learners at the exit stage of their education. The union agreed to meet parents of Grade 12 learners and table a proposal of sending learners to study/education camps. This meeting was disrupted by community members but at least 80 percent of Grade 12 learners were moved to the study/education camps.

Following a decision to re-open schools in Joe Morolong, SADTU called on its membership to return to class and participate voluntarily in the catch-up programme. SADTU put it on record that they fully supported the QLTC unconditionally. A major challenge for SADTU was the lack of consultation on decisions taken by the Department. The union raised concerns that the Department had decided to pay Grade 12 educators and officials tutoring these learners. SADTU reiterated that they would participate in the catch-up plan with or without remuneration, although this was creating tensions amongst members. A matter of concern remained the conduct and operations of the Chief Director in the Department which SADTU felt needed urgent attention. There had been numerous occasions where the Chief Director failed to attend meetings or came unprepared for various engagements. SADTU was of the view that the Chief Director did not have the necessary capacity for leading the portfolio.

SADTU was committed to the catch-up initiative and the education of all children. SADTU was of the view that there were some challenges that needed to be addressed in order for them to use the time remaining effectively, which were as follows:

· What were the contingency plans of the Department regarding Grade 12 teachers at the camps and their other responsibilities at their respective schools?

· Schools were still awaiting the adapted work schedules for curriculum coverage.

· There was policing by departmental officials (resulting in time being wasted on administrative duties at school level).

· There was unnecessary and additional paperwork for schools that would tamper with “time on task”

· The lack of consultation by the District Office regarding the implementation of a recovery plan for the affected schools was an issue.

· Conduct and capacity of the Chief Director – and the total disregard of stakeholders by not consulting on key issues affecting education and educators.

· Learners who took up seasonal work on farms in the district

· Learner absenteeism - a viable advocacy campaign for parents to send learners to school

· A concern that learners would call for a “pass-one-pass-all” scenario.

· A drive to ensure counselling for learners, teachers and parents affected by the protest action

SADTU noted that the issues at Olifantshoek remained volatile and urged that there be urgent intervention from the Provincial Government. It hoped that the community would allow schools to be re-opened soon. The union reiterated that by Monday, 8 October 2012 all teachers would be available and prepared to teach and respond to the recovery programme. Teachers would continue where they had left off the previous term, even without the necessary adapted work schedules.

5.2 National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA)

In its presentation, NAPTOSA warned that learners in the John Taole Gaetsewe education district would experience the influence of the devastating service delivery protests for a very long time. It was concerned about the level of intimidation that still occurred in some areas. NAPTOSA was committed to education and was very concerned about the situation in the two districts. The union was engaged with all role-players and political leadership to address and solve the problems faced. The view of the union was that the situation had a political origin and therefore required a political solution. It was disturbing that communities were prepared to use the education and future of children as a bargaining chip to obtain political goals.

The situation in Olifantshoek was still a serious concern for NAPTOSA. The union appealed to the provincial and national government to intervene immediately – making a stand to retain a political appointment and sacrificing the future of children was unacceptable.

With the schools being re-opened, it was important that learners and educators were focussed on revising academic work lost. NAPTOSA supported the catch-up programme and gave assurance that all its members were ready to assist learners in preparing for the final examinations. There remained a concern over the budget allocation for this programme. It was important to get clarity on how the Department would deal with promotions at the end of the year as NAPTOSA did not believe in a “pass-one-pass-all” approach, This would not assist the quality of education or the future of the affected learners. The union applauded the efforts by the Department to ensure Grade 12 learners were being taught and taken out of the volatile areas. There was a concern over a few affected learners who still did not form part of the programme. In high risk areas, the union urged teachers to ensure that they prioritised the safety of learners and their own.

The union also raised concern around the trucking of learners to neighbouring areas to do seasonal work on farms. This needed to be investigated and stopped. It was important that in all schools affected, the Department of Social Development needed to give support to both learners and teachers through counselling.

5.3 Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysunie (SAOU)

SAOU also shared serious concerns regarding education in the district. The views were echoed that the protest action had very little to do with education, but was affecting education in a serious way. It was a matter of concern that politicians were too slow in responding to the matters at hand. It was important that the departmental officials played their roles in resolving the crisis at hand.

6. Engagements with the South African Principals Association (SAPA)

The Principals Association was also taken by surprise with the protest action and closure of schools. SAPA had an open relationship with the Provincial Department although they had yet to secure a meeting with the Head of Department. SAPA’s appeal had always been to ensure that schools remained open, especially with the upcoming final exams. SAPA fully supported the initiative from the provincial department to remove learners to special study camps. Principals had later received a circular in respect of the recovery plan and the process going forward. There was concern that those educators who were still at the study camps would not be available for their normal teaching at their own schools. Of further concern was the possibility of learners not accepting failure – and possible further unrest? SAPA needed further assurance that all the necessary security measures were in place to ensure the safety and security of examinations. There was a possibility that communities would disrupt the examination process. It was important that the Committee had information on any undertakings promised to communities during previous visits and the timeframes given for such undertakings.

7. Committee’s Observations

  • The Committee applauded the efforts of the Department, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to create the necessary environment for affected learners to continue schooling at special centres. The Committee noted in particular during visits to the centres that Subject Advisors and lead teachers in their respective areas of specialisation were collaborating effectively to consolidate their support for learners. The Committee was further impressed with the standard of the facilities at these centres and the dedication of the learners. It was questioned, however, as to whether the learners would be sufficiently prepared for the upcoming examinations, given the time constraints.

· The Committee shared the concerns of the Department and the unions that schools were closed and learners were prevented from attending classes over service delivery protests that were unrelated to education. A more serious concern was that learners in Olifantshoek had not returned to school at the time of the oversight and had missed both the June and September examinations. It was evident that there was a need to intensify dialogue on the value of education through meetings with a whole range of affected stakeholders and protesters. Politicians also needed to come together to find lasting solutions to the problems experienced. The Committee was mindful of the fact that there had been previous visits by various Ministries to deal with the challenges.

· The Committee was concerned that the violent protest action must have had a negative effect on the psychological well being of learners, teachers as well as parents. Members suggested that there was a need for those affected to receive the necessary counselling and therapy. The Committee heard from the Department that the district had ongoing motivational and career guidance programmes funded by local mining houses but agreed on the need for more structured counselling programmes for learners affected by the protest action.

  • The Committee raised the need for the Department to intensify educator support on the utilisation of the Annual National Assessments (ANA) and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) diagnostic/technical reports that had been released.

  • The Committee noted that the study centre would be moved again from Tigerkloof to Warrenton. This could create further instability, especially since the camp at Warrenton needed to have classrooms erected as they had none.

  • There was concern over the reasons by the Department for not using available legislation to hold those responsible for preventing children from schooling to account for their actions.

  • The Committee observed that the budget for the Provincial Department’s interventions and catch up plans to deal with the situation had to be re-directed. This would have a negative effect on other priority areas of the Department due to the movement of funds. The Committee advised the Department to approach the Provincial Treasury for assistance in accessing additional funds.

  • The Committee raised a concern regarding the transporting of learners from their homes to do seasonal work on farms in the neighbouring areas. Members felt that this needed to be investigated as it constituted child-labour.
  • The rumours of a “pass-one-pass-all” scenario, and possible uprising were of concern to the Committee who would follow up on this issue.

8. Recommendations

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having conducted the oversight visit to the Northern Cape , and considered the issues that were raised, makes the following recommendations:

8.1 The Minister of Education should ensure that:

8.1.1 The Northern Cape Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Labour, investigate the trucking of learners to neighbouring areas to do seasonal work and submit a report on a way forward.

8.1.2 The Northern Cape Department of Education submits a report on the progress on the following recommendations that were made during the oversight visit, which required urgent attention:

· That the issue around the adapted work schedules needed to be finalised as a matter of urgency.

· That the safety and security measures at schools during the final examinations needed to be strengthened.

· That the Department reported on whether examinations were scheduled for Grade 1 – 11.

· That the Northern Cape Department of Education considered dealing with complaints raised by unions regarding a Chief Director in the Department.

All reports should be submitted within 30 days of the adoption of this report by the National Assembly.

8.2. Given that the service delivery protest action in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District was complex, Parliament should consider establishing an inter-faith, inter-disciplinary team to work with the communities and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) to find lasting solutions to the problems experienced.

Report to be considered


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